09 April 2011

The OFFICIAL DoJ Statement on ITA.

I publish this for your reference.

This is the link location.

Here is the entire text.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Friday, April 8, 2011
Justice Department Requires Google Inc. to Develop and License Travel Software in Order to Proceed with Its Acquisition of ITA Software Inc.
Mandatory Licensing, Research and Development Commitments and Firewall Requirements Will Preserve Competition in Online Airfare Search in the United States

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that in order for Google Inc. to proceed with its proposed acquisition of ITA Software Inc., the department will require Google to develop and license travel software, to establish internal firewall procedures and to continue software research and development. The department said that the proposed settlement will protect competition for airfare comparison and booking websites and ensure those websites using ITA’s software will be able to power their websites to compete against any airfare website Google may introduce. The department said that the acquisition, as originally proposed, would have substantially lessened competition among providers of comparative flight search websites in the United States, resulting in reduced choice and less innovation for consumers.

The department said that Google will also be required to provide mandatory arbitration under certain circumstances and provide for a formal reporting mechanism for complainants if Google acts in an unfair manner.

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block the proposed acquisition. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns of the lawsuit.

“The Department of Justice’s proposed remedy promotes robust competition for airfare websites by ensuring those websites will continue to have access to ITA’s pricing and shopping software,” said Joseph Wayland, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits to consumers.”

Under the proposed settlement, Google will be required to continue to license ITA’s QPX software to airfare websites on commercially reasonable terms. QPX conducts searches for air travel fares, schedules and availability. Google will also be required to continue to fund research and development of that product at least at similar levels to what ITA has invested in recent years. Google will also be required to further develop and offer ITA’s next generation InstaSearch product to travel websites, which will provide near instantaneous results to certain types of flexible airfare search queries. InstaSearch is currently not commercially available, but is in development by ITA.

To prevent abuse of commercially sensitive information, Google will be required to implement firewall restrictions within the company that prevent unauthorized use of competitively sensitive information and data gathered from ITA’s customers. The proposed settlement delineates when and for what purpose that data may be used by Google. Google is also prohibited from entering into agreements with airlines that would inappropriately restrict the airlines’ right to share seat and booking class information with Google’s competitors. Finally, the proposed settlement provides for a formal reporting mechanism for complainants if Google acts in an unfair manner.

Google Inc. is the largest search engine in the United States. Google is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Mountain View, Calif., and with 2009 revenues of more than $23 billion.

ITA Software Inc. is a leading producer of airfare pricing and shopping systems in the United States. ITA is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass.

As required by the Tunney Act, the proposed five-year settlement, along with the department’s competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register. Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement during a 60-day comment period to James J. Tierney, Chief, Networks and Technology Enforcement Section, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 7100, Washington, D.C. 20530. At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia may enter the proposed settlement upon finding that it is in the public interest

08 April 2011

Objectivity In Content Curation Can Provide Brand Value

I love to see the English language extended. However I hate to see it abused. Today's word (Sesame Street Lovers) is CURATION.

Wikipedia gives it a definition that is not quite what is meant by our friends over at
eMarketer. But have a look at the definition. US Content Curation firm Hivefire has a product called Curata. OK I realize we have extended the language to the point of absurdity here but hear with me. They have some interesting tools for managing the deluge of data and information out there.

Establishing the value of a brand with Trust - real trust not manufactured or gamed is a goal for everyone. Providing neutral expert advise - candidly - can give the brand a boost. Examine the sites that are closely associated to individuals, Fare Compare and Rick Seaney for example. Rick is seen as an expert in his field. It adds to the value of the FareCompare brand.

Jan Carlson famously of SAS talked about the number of Touchpoints between an airline and the traveller. In today's Social Media connected world those touchpoints rise much higher and are truly all part of the brand value. EVERY TOUCHPOINT matters. Curation is a reinforcement of that.

Failing to demonstrate you know what you are talking about takes away from the authenticity of your brand.

So sloughing it off and ignoring the issue is not an option in today's Social world.

Think about it


iAds. The Peak of Apple Hubris

Can the house that Steve built do any wrong?

Well it seems that Apple may have another Lisa on its hands. Adweek picked up a story from Business insider.

Seems the faithful are going to have to work a bit harder. The asking price of iAds going in put it out of reach of all but the VERY VERY BIG brands. Even content aggregators would find it hard with a carousel type product.

Fortunately while Apple seems to be following Google and Facebook in their pursuit of the very big brands, there are some savvy folks out there who have developed tools to place social ads into the Apps world.

This doesn't mean that Apple has failed (yet). But they have slashed the ask in price by 50%. And uncharacteristically - Apple has open Ad sales positions.

This could be the peak of the Apple Hubris... yes? no? Well I guess we shall see.


With thanks to dipity for the image of an Apple Lisa computer. Steve's last big bomb.

07 April 2011

Social Ads Have Good Click Thru Rates But Need Greater Inspection

Faccebook's capture of so much advertising display dollars is resonating round the advertising world. But how effective is that advertising when compared with other media?

On the face of things pretty well.

A study by appssavvy Social Media Consultancy shows this. But read the Press Release carefully. then decide if long term this is good or - perhaps not so good.


TripAdvisor - Rational Decision or?

In February of 2010 Expedia's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was busy denying the IPO or spin out of Trip Advisor. Oh what a difference a year makes. Announced today after the markets closed on the US East Coast Expedia Inc announced the split of the company into two entities.

it is interesting considering the parentage of Expedia as a Baby Bill spin off from Microsoft. Today Microsoft is struggling having fallen behind both Google and Apple in tech stock value. Perhaps it should split up... but I digress.

One can speculate as to what has been in mind with the future of the Expedia family - but someone needs to get value because the stock is getting its ass kicked by the smaller PCLN.

But what do the analysts say? Well the jury is out. The move has been expected for quite some time so in my view the value of Trip Advisor has already been factored in.

Quoting the first guy to come out and put out a research note on this who is Deutsche Bank's Herman Leung - he is being cautious and maintaining a short term value of $25 and says HOLD. He argues that the bears would have a 9x valuation at the low end to bulls who could go as high as 15X. Pretty broad spread but understandable. I wont steal his thunder.

In my view there is the devil you know and the devil you don't know. I concur with his analysis that TA's yields are better and therefore the multiple for the TA business should be higher than that of the residual transaction based business. It tells me that there is a certain fear that competing with PCLN on a direct basis will actually see Expedia's value drop in an apple to apple comparison. This may have been one reason why EXPE has been holding onto TA for so long.

Now that the company has done quite a few things to shore up their core business to wit:
Partnering in Asia Pac with Air Asia.
Using Cleartrip to power domestic India
Coming to terms with AA
Abandoning the pure GDS based supply model for Air

Now therefore would be a good time to give some opportunity to eke out some better equity value.

For Trip Advisor this is good. Steve and the team will now be free to ply their own wares. one thing to think about will be an Air Search engine. Will they go the me too route with Kayak with ITA or native ITA or will they be bold and go with a Vayant or an Everbread. Even develop their own directly or with a third party group.

The possibilities are broad and this can shake things up in search.

Of course one key question will be how they handle community with positive relationship with Facebook or will they try and challenge the Dentist's son's juggernaut.

Questions indeed


With thanks to Strawberry Walrus website.

Forrester: Facebook Stumbles on Commerce

Perhaps Facebook is believing its own BS. http://blogs.forrester.com/sucharita_mulpuru/11-04-07-will_facebook_ever_drive_commerce the research firm is cautioning that Facebook doesn't get commerce.

In this blog article Forrester Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru lays out why she is bearish on Facebook making a success of its own F-Commerce. But she admits that there are many ways to skin this cat.

But Dan Rose, Facebook’s vice president of partnerships and platform marketing, discussed the appeal of its social ads at an event Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

“When I raise my hand and say, I like Einstein (Bros.) bagels, and then one of my friends sees that ad, they’re going to see my name in that ad,” Rose said. Through Facebook’s partnership with the media-research firm Nielsen, “we found that when my friend’s name is in an ad, I’m over 60% more likely to remember the ad, and I’m over four times more likely to purchase the product,” said.

“This is word of mouth. This is word of mouth at scale. This is what, as marketers, we’ve always been trying to bottle up and find a way to take advantage of, and the social web is finally allowing us to do that.”

But Forrester’s Mulpuru said she found that offering promotions in exchange for people to “like” their page were ineffective because most people “liked” companies just for a discount. I have written frequently about this Pavlovian response to offers and promotions. As I wrote yesterday - this is where you not only eat your own dog food but believe that your poop doesn't stink.

Though companies theoretically show up on the news feed of their Facebook fans, the analyst said companies are unsure how frequently or prominently their posts do show up on the feeds.

“When retailers put like buttons on their product-detail pages, are they really thinking?” she said. “Your competitors can see what products are more liked than others. Are you exposing your sales information? So why would expose this information?”

Still, Mulpuru said Facebook could help some companies, such as those that sell digital media and goods, such as video-game maker Zynga. Businesses that run on “flash sale,” or limited-time sale, model are also well suited for Facebook, she said.

In my view trying to see this as a way to determine your value as a brand on Facebook using the Fan or Like assessments is like trying to gauge your success as a parent by your kid's School scores.

Start being real people!!!


PANDA... A Clue into the Minds Of the Googleplex

In the last month I have written two pieces on Google's PANDA algorithm "upgrade".

The first piece release shortly after the algorthm was released was from an analysis on SEOmoz. The second was an allegory of Google's behavior compared to Coke's ill fated "New Coke" launch from Webpro News.

Well folks - here is another one. iCrossing who describe their services thus:

"Travel to great lengths for your customers. Whether it’s online or offline, your customers want a great travel experience with your brand. Are you living up to the promise? Using iCrossing’s brand monitoring services and social network mapping tools, we can provide a comprehensive, up-to-date scorecard of what’s being said about your brand, and where. Then we devise a strategy to help you counter criticism and improve your image, or play up your strengths when you find customers are responding positively to an aspect of your business you hadn’t considered."

Amongst their clients in the Travel space are:

Bermuda Department of Tourism
Dollar Thrifty
Fairmont Hotels
Pleasant Holidays
Vail Resorts (including Snow.com)
Virgin Holidays

They have an interesting analysis on their website on how PANDA does actually benefit big brands. Their analysis is from two sectors - travel and banking.

Adding to the analysis WebPro News also pulled some archive video from the guy some of us like to hate Matt Cutts - who is the Googleplex's point man on search design.

My point however is to connect some of the dots. Google is position itself to be more attractive to the bigger brands for a reason. I don't believe that this is just happenstance. Smaller universe to control could be just one of the many possible reasons.

For Travel it means that the tight inventory of Web Real Estate is about to get tighter which in turn drives up costs and rates - AND revenues for the Googleplex

In my view the evolving vision gives the Googleplex everything it wants. Let's watch out - this could be a portent of things to come from Google.

Feb22 was no accident, and the favouring of big brands is a focused deliberate act.


06 April 2011

Are Social Media Adherents Looking for Love In All The Wrong Places?

I am beginning to think so.

A recent piece in eMarketer on Social Media entitled "What Brand Marketers Expect from Social Media Followers" tries to use some research to draw home the point that
"Brands place value on insights and loyalty, not spending"

Here is an excerpt from the article.

"How much is a brand fan worth? It’s a question some social media marketers have been asking for a while, but research suggests many are moving on from the search for a hard number.

According to a July 2010 survey of social media marketers by Millward Brown and Dynamic Logic, the most valuable aspects of social media brand fans go beyond anything with an immediate monetary value. Increased short-term and long-term spend on the brand were the bottom two results.

At the top of the list were the fan’s value as a source of insight and increased loyalty overall. Advocacy and engagement were also important to at least three-quarters of respondents"

Interesting. The conclusions drawn from the study doesn't make much sense to me. Perhaps I am too analytical. In my view this is not the smartest view. While experimentation is good and there are not good metrics in place - that is still not a good enough reason to trust things like the "Like" and "Fan" buttons.

I have said many times before that using the Fan numbers and the assessment of the "Like" button is ignoring the Pavlovian nature of the online consumer.

Time for us to grow up. As Facebook has just shown us with its privacy setting change - they can and will change the game... and frequently.

You have been warned. Look for love and reality in the real places.

Here is a 1979 Ad for Nike.

05 April 2011

They Are Smoking Things At Sabre Central

A great post by Dennis Schaal of Tnooz today on the GDS Have vs Have Nots.

In case anyone should now doubt the airlines resolve to break down the restrictive and expensive nature of the GDS model - they can see now that AA was the one that pushed the envelope. Now it has its policy if not vindicated then at the very least validated.

So what of the other side of the argument? Sabre put on a brave face and proceeded to rubbish any idea that the AA+EXPE deal was anything but a reaffirmation of the GDS model. The Sabre Peep commented:

“GDSs already have aggregation technology — that’s what we do — aggregate content in one place,” St. Pierre says. ”We already aggregate AA’s content, along with hundreds of other airlines. As such, there is no need for a one-off direct connect.”

And this perhaps underscores the legacy GDS head in the sand approach.

Hello is anyone dealing with reality over there in South Fork (aka Southlake TX).

This is not about the single battle between AA and one GDS. It is about driving innovation in distribution and lowering the cost by reducing or better eliminating the hidden tax that the GDS fees impose on the consumer. It is about giving the consumer choice.

I find it hard to believe that Sabre doesn't get this. However I do believe they are actually harming their credibility long term by not coming to the market with pragmatic and more honest approach to providing the value to the intermediaries and the airlines.

Let's hope they try and treat the marketplace with a little more deference and give the travel distribution community some acknowledgement for having a brain.


04 April 2011

Migration for Magazine and Newsprint Players Not Fast Enough

This is a follow up to my piece last week...

It seems there is more evidence to support the stupid theory.

Like many things today - the explosion of online information - most of it free has changed the way we consume information. But we have yet to figure out the way to monetize this.

Well our friends over at eMarketer are not going to make you any happier with this piece. The expenditure in online consumption is not keeping pace with the loss of traditional media forms revenue.

I don't think they are going to ever get it. The stupid is that the publishers are trying to restrict the way we consume media on these new digital devices. In my view the lazy way is one use one device vs my preferred choice - and that of most people which is one use one user.

Consider this if you will. I have a portable form of a copyright material. I can play my CD or my DVD on any machine I choose (provided that it has the right play system on it!!!). Ditto for the prior issue of cassettes and vinyl. Today's media products are far more portable but some stupid publishers are trying to restrict how we consume.

Guys get with the program. You can do a better job than this. Don't kill the fatted calf.

Just my advice. Its free - you may now go about your daily chores.


Hello Remember Me?

Yes this is about ME!

With thanks to the Baby Boomer Network for the image!

So this is not about you this is all about me today. Marketers in the rush to own the next gen of Digikids have been avoiding the Boomer Generation that has powered the growth for well nigh on 30 years. As we (yes I am one) start to leave the active market we are being replaced by a bunch of ADD scatty kids. Don't get me wrong - I love them.

However we do need people to remember us old timers. We still have a lot of clout and cash to spend. And we are willing to spend it (No matter what our kids and grandkids are thinking). That old story about he with the most toys wins, nope we are now into experiences. Travel we are going to keep on doing that till we just physically cant.


Have You QR'd Today?

Almost everywhere I turn I see QR codes.

Seems I am not imagining things.

This remarkable piece of low tech is rapidly gaining traction. One of the key drivers is the Arrline 2D barcode application.

I believe we will see many other forms. With Apple's iTravel patent application trying to stifle market for Non Apple based technologies - this lovely piece of low tech is going to provide a wealth of opportunity to the general public. The adoption of smart phones and the growth of the print or physical presence of the QR code makes for a happy marriage.

Still Google is trying to get into the act by co-opting the standard. Don't put up with it. Just make sure that your applications can be read easily. The adoption will be fast and broad based. Check out this story in eMarketer.


Boeing Sends A Chilling Message To Suppliers

In an headline article in today's Seattle Times Business Section a Boeing Exec is profiled. She comes from a storied family. Nicole Piasecki comes from one of the pioneers of Helicopters.

Today she sits in quite a powerful position at Boeing where she is a senior member of the team evaluating what to do next with the 737. Boeing has long since given up trying to convince everyone that the 737 just needs another tweak. I doubt we will ever see a Boeing 737-1000. But the new aircraft will likely be 797, the large diameter of the next gen engines has precluded anything along those lines. At the moment Boeing is trying a whole range of things out on the public. The most radical is that a little twin aisle fat albert replacement aka 787 lite is the one they are trying out on us.

Please read the article. There is a chilling statement/threat in the article despite the nice smiling face of the lady who was the subject of the article.

'Piasecki said Boeing will strive for a more exclusive relationship with future partners, suggesting that those who also do work for rivals like Airbus may lose favor.

"Some of our very close suppliers are spending a lot of time developing stuff for other competitors. They are spending resources on others, not on us," she said. "We'd prefer that they work with us, and ... share and invest in technology for our advantage."'

Clearly a message for anyone. It was not just aimed at Airbus but also at the Canadians (Bombardier), The Brazilians (Embraer), The Chinese (AVIC, the Russians (Sukhoi and others) and the Japanese (Mitsubishi).

The one moment of tension in the article was over the decision to sell Boeing Witchita. A series of questions she sidestepped neatly. The article goes "... she briskly moved on, saying she won't "second-guess decisions that have already been made."

Given her high position inside the Boeing hierachy the question of the next site for Boeing and the unstated issue of the S Carolina facility the article carries on "...
Piasecki said Boeing is studying the possibility of a high-volume aircraft production "supersite," where supplier fabrication plants making airplane sections would cluster near a Boeing final-assembly facility.

She said if Boeing chooses that route, it may set up more than one such supersite to mitigate the risk of having such a key complex subject to disruption by a natural disaster or a labor strike." A clear shot across the bows of the Washington State government and legislature not to mention the unions.

Given that Boeing has sold much of the land around the Renton plant - the chances that Renton will be the site of the assembly of the next 737 is about the same as American balancing the budget. Boeing will go the same route it went through with the 787 and probably string it out a lot. (Lot's of free lunches for Ms Piasecki and her team). Remember that Boeing got to do this twice. Once for the Everett Assembly and then for the "2nd line" in S. Carolina.

"Hello, Boeing, yes Ms Piasecki please ... this is the state of Alabama calling...."


Did You Get Spammed Today?

Like many people - I am probably on about a squillion mail lists. So today the revenge of the mail list.

Epsilon who provides email list server services to the whole world was hacked. Congrats to Tivo for being first to act. The others have been not so swift. So I am getting the mails coming in at a rate of knots.

for more on this topic go here.

So now you know!

For my readers outside the USA - let this be a lesson to you. Maintain your own email list.